Have you ever heard of the 600km ‘Only for Softies’, the ‘Spa Trek’ or even the ‘Still Seething After All These Years’ events? Welcome to the world of Audax.
The Audax is a bike ride, organised by a volunteer, often a CTC local group, and run under the administration of Audax UK, or the international equivalent.
They're non-competitive events in that no times are published, and no placings are given. There’s a minimum average speed limit, and also a maximum average speed limit, usually around 18mph.
But while it might be non-competitive, Audax is one of the most challenging disciplines there is. There’s no sportive that will require you to spend 40+ hours in the saddle and tackle 8000 metres of climbing in the rain.
While there are plenty of 100km Audaxes, most are much longer: 200, 300 and 400km events are frequent; 600kms are regular, and then there are the big ones. Of these, Paris-Brest-Paris (1200km) and London-Edinburgh-London (1400km) are the most popular.
Rides of 600km and longer will usually have sleep stops, but these are often nothing more than a space on the floor of a village hall. Oh, and rides go on whatever the weather.
Preparing for an audax
Almost any bike will do - people cycle everything from touring bikes to road bikes.
Gradually increase your mileage - start with the 100km Audax and build up slowly to the longer distances. Opting for the 600km route straight off may lead to injury.
Prepare mentally. This can be tricky.It can be a long lonely ride so be prepared for some low moments.
Befriend other riders. Companionships formed on the road make tough parts of the ride more bearable: everyone’s going through the same thing, after all.
A determination is key. Willpower is much more important than leg power when it comes to completing an endurance event.
What to take on an audax
Self-sufficient. While some events are famed for their home-cooked food and excellent facilities, but on most, you’ll need to be self-sufficient.
Food bags. For longer rides, like London-Edinburgh-London, you can take bags to collect from controls, but most Audaxes won’t have bag drops – you’ll need to carry everything yourself. You should aim to eat every 50km.
Essential kit. Tools, spare tubes, waterproofs, lights, batteries, wallet and phone are the bare essentials for an audax.
Backpack or saddle bag: Jersey pockets will not cut it so you are going to have to think about additional options to carry your kit.
The art of navigation
Unlike sportives, Audax routes aren’t signposted. Many Audaxers now use GPS gadgets but you’ll find plenty who’ll tear pages out of a spiral bound 1:250,000 road atlas and keep them in a waterproof handlebar bag, with the route highlighted in fluorescent marker.
Each ride will have controls along the route that you’ll need to check into. Often a control will be a road-side stop or village hall with food and a controller to stamp your ‘brevet’ card – a record card which you collect at the start of the event. Sometimes you’ll need to grab a till receipt from a petrol station as proof you’ve been passed, or you might need to answer a question about a specific location: this is called an ‘information control’.
When you finish, you’ll need to give your card and to the controller, who’ll stamp it and take it away. Your ride will be recorded by Audax UK, and your validated card will be returned by post.
Get out and ride
If you’re now sold on the idea, the Audax UK website has a full calendar of events. If you’re not an Audax UK or a CTC member, you’ll need to pay a small fee for third party insurance in addition to the entry fee.
Summer is well underway and we have a few more months to take advantage of the long days, so what are you waiting for? Ride, prepare and get out on an Audax ride.
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